Making a will after being diagnosed with dementia

From the October/November 2016 issue of our magazine, read about making a will after a dementia diagnosis.

People can make a will after a diagnosis of dementia as long as they are able to understand what they are doing and make decisions about it, and there are ways to help avoid future complications.

Last will and testament

'Can my sister still make a will, even though she's been diagnosed with vascular dementia?'

Your sister's dementia diagnosis does not automatically mean that she cannot make a will to say who her money and possessions should go to after she dies.

Instead, it depends on whether she is able to understand and make decisions about the will.

Capacity

For anyone to make a will, you must have 'testamentary capacity'. This legal term means there are specific things that you must be able to understand:

  • What making a will means and the effect that it will have.
  • What you own and how this might change, including what you may owe or be owed in future.
  • Who might expect to be named in your will, and why you are choosing to either leave or not leave things to them.

If a person has dementia, then for their will to be valid, their dementia must not affect their ability to make decisions about the will.

Golden rule

As long as your sister understands what she is doing and can make these decisions, then she can make a will. However anyone's will can be disputed later on, and there are things she can do to avoid future complications or doubts.

The courts have a 'golden rule' that, if someone has dementia or another condition that might affect their decision-making, then it is advisable to get medical evidence to say they are able to make the will.

Although not compulsory, it is a good idea for your sister to get a medical opinion so that, if anyone questions her will in future, there is evidence that she was able to make one at the time.

Because of this, solicitors usually ask for a medical opinion when a person with a dementia diagnosis makes a will.

Other steps

Writing a will is a good opportunity for your sister to consider other legal steps to help plan for the future. This could include setting up power of attorney for someone to make decisions on her behalf if needed, or an advance decision about her future care and treatment.

 

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